I’m not even sure where to start this post…it seems wildy random I know! Essentially I was in a client meeting in the rather awesome Caledonian Brewery in Scotland (years ago) and we were discussing Burns Night. I’d never attended an official Burns Night celebration or really knew what that involved but was happy to mark the occasion with a tasty tea of haggis, neeps and tatties. We’ve Scottish ancestry in our family and even a Blaylock tartan (my maiden name) so I’ve always felt like I’ve had some sort of Scottish connection. However nothing could’ve prepared me for the question or rather request which came next. “We’re looking for someone to do the “Response from the Lassies” – queue blank expression on my face but trying to politely smile. My boss at the time, who is in fact Scottish, smiled and animatedly carried on the conversation with the client as they reeled off the list of names volunteered for the various speeches traditional for a Burns Night supper. The next minute of fast-paced chat seemed to end with the words…“I’m sure Charlotte would love to do the Response from the Lassies.” You know that moment when you’ve zoned out slightly in a meeting because quite frankly everyone is talking about something you know little of in an overly familiar manner at about 90mph in a thick Scottish accent…that.
Anyway my boss totally downplayed the significance of such a commitment on the train journey home whilst I frantically googled what this is all about. I can’t for one minute claim the response you see below is all my own handiwork, there was a lot of copy and pasting going on from various other speeches I’d googled so apologies for the serious amounts of plagiarism, I wouldn’t be scoring top marks if this was a Uni essay. Anyway it turns out there were plenty of other people who had unwittingly agreed to write and recite the same traditional Burns Night Response so there was plenty of inspo online. A response I might add which is expected to be tailored to your specific event, reference people in the room, be a response to the Toast to the Lassies and most horrifically…make people laugh. (Many a sleepless night ensued worrying about people staring at me blankly with not even a glimmer of a smile let alone a laugh!) My fab family also helped out after a pleading message to the all-family Whatsapp so there’s some seriously random lines here from them too.
So if you’ve never been to a Burns Night picture the scene – room full of people (in this case my clients, their colleagues and various other invited guests) drinking and eating delicious food, traditional poems celebrating the life of Robert Burns and a very animated tartan-clad man weilding a sword whilst leaping round the room doing the Address to a Haggis. The latter is an absolute feast for the ears and the eyes and a performance I shall never forget. So anyway my time came, I stood, I spoke (slower than I think I’ve ever spoken in all my life) and thankfully there was laughter. In hindsight I feel honoured to have been a part of the evening and not to have made a total fool of myself. After the formalities were over and everyone was ordering another round, a young Sales Rep from Yorkshire came over and said – your speech was amazing and basically the only thing I’ve understood all evening – which did make me laugh. Annoyingly I can’t find my final copy of the speech but did come across this draft version which looks to be mostly all there, minus a few more references to people in the room, so without further ado… oh and yes in the shot below the person looking pensive at my speech attempt is best selling crime writer Ian Rankin… no pressure….
I’m straying from convention so please bear with me. I’m not a poet by any stretch of the imagination but seemed fitting as we celebrate the life of Scotland’s beloved bard….
As I start my speech this evening
I hope my reply won’t be a failure
I expect no outcry from rabble rousers
You might all look great in your regalia
But tonight, laddies, I’m wearing the trousers
A man deserves to be rebuked
(A lass is ne’er to blame)
Actually there’s two culprits
The first, Colin is his name
Don’t think you’re off scot free
The second, they call him Mitch
He smiled and with a look of glee
Asked of me just this…
‘I would be honoured’, he said
‘If you’d do the ‘Reply”
‘On behalf of Lassies’, he said
So casual, by the by.
Thus, I tentatively spoke
To say that would be fine
It’s a shame that I had no idea
Of the stress that would be mine
I’d thought this speech was something quick
that I could find online
And print off, just before I came
And read out, at this time.
Yet only a few days ago
To Mr Google’s aid I turned
He said I had to write my own!
None was supplied by Mr Burns
The ‘reply’ required a lot of thought
It was to be new each time
It wasn’t something he churned out
Not one of his five hundred and fifty-nine
Yikes, I cried – this isn’t right
This is an awful affair
Have they any idea how long it took
Just to work out what to wear?
And glancing back at that webpage
T’was with horror that I saw
That grace and charm and wit were required
Don’t you know me but at all?
I stand before you a Yorkshire lass
This the first Burns night I have been
An experience I’d hoped to enjoy
Beer in hand, not being seen
But so I bravely battled on
Back to Google’s help I turned
My ever present buddy in life
So much from him I’ve learned
Reveal, he did, ‘Replies’ of lassies
From Burns nights of the past
Please picture the horror on my face
On reading: 15 minutes it should last.
Don’t panic tho, I quickly thought
That this I’d just dismiss
Fifteen minutes of me, I fear
Is no one’s idea of bliss
And furthermore it was revealed
‘Men’ I must show as fools
Whilst also referring to Roger himself
Tell me – who makes up these rules?
And what to say to show men up
To make them sound less wise?
A man can be a useful thing
No woman will deny…
They work so hard from dawn to dusk
And still put dinner on the table
And sort the kids and clean the house
Oh… whoops – that’s us lassies that are so able.
Some men think they’re still hip,
With beaded necklaces and cool wheels
Taking surfboards for a dip
Even though they spend their life in sales
But men can help around the house.
When from watching the rugby they’re dragged
And they can be good company
They’re handy if you need a good nag.
Though, like Shakey, pipe in when least expected,
Interrupt us in full sway,
Tempting to take his beer and utter
“Stop piping up! Pipe off, I say!
OK, ok, it’s said in jest
I think men quite alright
Despite conning me into doing this
Or laughing at my plight
And as for Burns that famous Scot
A real one, not just in part
T’was two hundred n fifty years ago he was born…
And a bit later, he did depart
The bit in the middle, it seems to consist
Of flirting and being a tart
But he sought out some time to write stuff down
Which now is considered pure art.
He was a huge champion of women
He adored them, some would say
adoring too many at any one time though
That perhaps wouldn’t wash today
My Nanny tells me of a tale,
married and with child you see,
but Gramps piped up pale-faced and dour
a girl he did not want it to be,
As his understanding of the fairer sex
had caused him much anxiety,
but there must have been a higher ploy
as there came three daughters before a wee boy…
But Burns it was a different story
an impressive record he did set
12 children by 4 women
In 13 years no less achieved
Some would say fine living
Others would be peeved
Without the aid of match.com
Or even that awful Tinder one
He wooed with poetical words
and even the occasional song
But adore them he did,
with poem after poem
Dedicated to us lassies
And for that we can forgive
And bless him, it must be true
He didn’t need some glasses,
Said – “Mother Nature practiced making man,
And then she made the lassies!”
Sadly he lived only 37 years
Just imagine had it been more
So laddies count yourselves lucky
That his isn’t the ultimate score
But for all this jesting you must forgive
For Burns was truly wonderful.
An inspiring poet, Scotland’s national hero no less
For that we raise a tumbler full
I’d like to share a small snippet
Delivered far better if
capable of a Scottish accent
But in Yorkshire it sounds like this
Had we never loved sae kindly
Had we never loved sae blindly
Never met – or never parted –
We had ne’er be broken hearted
Well, my poem is done; it turned out to be fun
My panic was clearly in vain
But just so I’m clear, when you have one next year,
Please don’t make me do it again!
So, lassies of the room, I invite you to stand and raise
Your glasses to those gentlemen
without whom we would ne’er be broken hearted,
but without whom we would also never love or be loved so kindly.
To the laddies!